You can’t make this stuff up

August 5, 2011

Yesterday, the White House issued the following:

President Obama Directs New Steps to Prevent Mass Atrocities and Impose Consequences on Serious Human Rights Violators

Today, President Obama is directing a comprehensive review to strengthen the United States’ ability to prevent mass atrocities.  The President’s directive creates an important new tool in this effort, establishing a standing interagency Atrocities Prevention Board with the authority to develop prevention strategies and to ensure that concerns are elevated for senior decision-making so that we are better able to work with our allies and partners to be responsive to early warning signs and prevent potential atrocities.  Today he is also issuing a proclamation that, for the first time, explicitly bars entry into the United States of persons who organize or participate in war crimes, crimes against humanity, and serious violations of human rights.

I, for one, will sleep MUCH better knowing that a standing interagency Atrocities Prevention Board is in place. How did we ever cope with mass atrocities without one? And that proclamation – serious mojo:

This proclamation fills this gap by expanding the grounds for denial of entry into the United States to cover a broader array of recognized violations of international humanitarian law and international criminal law, such as war crimes and crimes against humanity. …

The President’s proclamation empowers the United States to warn groups that have carried out, or may be about to carry out, serious human rights violations or grave atrocities that their conduct falls within explicit standing bans on admission to the United States.

I am SURE that will deter most folks contemplating committing mass atrocities. And I am NOT WORRIED that innocent victims, like Israeli politicians or soldiers who are falsely accused of war crimes, will ever have to worry about getting a visa. After all, isn’t the country (and the world!) in the very best of hands !

Hat tip James Taranto.

Women’s studies will disappear in 50 years

July 28, 2011

Even in this period of occasional blogging, I like to cover issues other than politics. Like most of my posts, this was inspired by an online article I read claiming When ‘science’ looks for sexism, it finds it. It touches on two topics I find compelling: how unbiased science really is and the absurdity of some politically correct ideas that fly in the face of biology.

I plan on writing about my own experience as a scientist and how it informs me about objective and scientific truth. For now, I’ll merely say that this article makes the case that you often find what you are looking for. The other aspect about it that intrigued me is the focus on women. The article discusses a study published in a “feminist, scientific, peer-reviewed journal,” so the sexism at issue is directed against women.

I am familiar with numerous examples from the generation preceding mine (I am 52) where women were pigeonholed, not valued as productive members of society outside the home, and generally held back. Men were favored, encouraged to pursue challenging careers, and women were not. It is much harder to make that claim for my generation and I think it is impossible to make for my childrens’ generation. But with the time lag we often see in social engineering, the fixes are being applied after they are really needed, and swing the pendulum to the other side, at least for a while. That’s OK – some amount of overshoot is always going to happen when you react to a problem or injustice.

When I went on a college tour with my son, we visited a place known as Diversity University. Four of the five tour guides available were women, and three of them were majoring in Women and Gender Studies. These bright, engaged, socially conscious women decided to focus their college studies on their half of the population.

It occurred to me that unlike some of the other politically correct university departments, like African American Studies, Women and Gender Studies is a totally artificial subject. Sure there are differences between the sexes, but studying (and celebrating) them is like glorifying Anatomy and Physiology. When the pendulum comes to rest at its new equilibrium, which I predict will be in about 50 years, I think that department will have disappeared. I predict it will go the way of other fads that similarly occupied the minds of some of our most socially engaged thinkers, like eugenics, which once boasted hundreds of courses in leading universities.

Jewish voters coming to their senses ! [UPDATED]

July 12, 2011

The latest poll shows American Jews are finally realizing that Obama’s policies towards Israel do not line up with their views (hat tip Tevi Troy). A poll byMcLaughlin & Associates and Pat Caddell commissioned by Secure America Now found that Jewish support for Obama’s reelection is underwater:

65% claim they voted for President Obama in 2008, 64% have a favorable opinion of the President and 63% approve of the job he is doing as President; however, only two in five (43%) would vote to re-elect President Obama. The plurality (48%) would consider someone else and 9% are undecided.

This is a fascinating poll with lots more information than can be summarized in a blog post. You can read the whole thing here. The sample may be skewed a little since  77% of Jews voted for Obama in 2008, not the 65% claimed by those sampled. Whether that is sample bias or selective memory among the respondents is unclear. Nor are all of the trends consistent:

About two-thirds (64% to 31%) have a favorable opinion of President Obama.

Nearly two-thirds (65% to 30%) approve of the job President Obama is doing regarding America’s defense and security.

By a 2 to 1 ratio (56% to 25%), the majority believes things in the U.S. are headed off on the wrong track.

Generally speaking, when deciding their vote for President, the most important issue category is economic (44%) followed by social (31%), foreign affairs (14%), moral (4%) and other local issues (1%).

So despite having a favorable opinion of Obama, American Jews believe the US is on the wrong track, probably for economic reasons. Here are some more tidbits.

In April of last year, President Obama had a +11 job approval rating on handling America’s relations with Israel (50% to 39%). Now his job rating is … upside down (43% to 50%).

Considering that President Obama has proposed a return to the 1967 borders, dividing Jerusalem, and allowing the right of return for Palestinian Arabs to Israel, two-thirds (67% to 24%) are concerned about President Obama’s policies towards Israel if he were re-elected.

Four in five (81%) are against Israel being forced to return to its pre-1967 borders, which were susceptible to attack.

Nearly three-quarters (73%) believe Jerusalem should remain the undivided capital of Israel. Only 8% thinks the United States should force Israel to give parts of Jerusalem, including Christian and Jewish holy sites, to the Palestinian Authority.

An overwhelming majority (88% to 5) agrees with the position that before the Palestinian Authority is given their own country, they must first recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

Fox News (20%) and CNN (18%) are the most trusted news organizations to report international news and Israel fairly.

Regarding the Palestinian-Israel conflict, 43% is unsure who President Obama favors. Among those with an opinion, more Jewish voters think he favors the Palestinians (31% to 26%).

The sample views Prime Minister Netanyahu more favorably than Obama, kind of like their most recent speeches to Congress:
American Jewish voters are strongly favorable to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (65% favorable to 20% unfavorable).
All in all, I find this poll reassuring that Jewish voters are getting over their reflexive support for Democrats regardless of their policies.

UPDATE: According to Greg Sargent and Adam Serwer, this is a “laughably bogus poll” because in addition to the (possible) sample skew I noted, the “questions in the poll are phrased in as leading a manner as possible” (hat tip William Jacobson). And as a commenter pointed out, saying you would consider another candidate is not the same as saying you would vote for Obama.

I disagree that the poll is bogus, though some findings show some bias. Most of the questions were straightforward and not leading:

Do you approve or disapprove of the job Barack Obama is doing regarding America’s defense and security?

Regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would you say that President Obama favors Israel, or favors the Palestinians?

The good news is, you can read the pollster’s detailed findings and decide for yourself if it is believable.

OHO Again ! Transparency and the Debt Ceiling

July 12, 2011

File this under Obama Hypocrisy Observation: Obama promised the most transparent administration in history. Let’s see how that has played out in the debt ceiling negotiations.

None of the negotiating positions have been made public. But there was lots of spin and reporting that Obama was offering significant cuts – trillions of dollars – and the Republicans were holding back on agreeing to smaller tax increases. NY Times columnist David Brooks was convinced that the Republicans were losing an historic opportunity to make “the deal of the century” as Obama was offering 3:1 spending cuts to ‘revenues,’ i.e. tax hikes. I was not convinced as none of the principals would go on the record. All they said was the usual agreeable blather that the talks were making progress.

Now one principal has gone on the record. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said the negotiations, specifically the administrations’s positions, were a sham:

“We all saw how it worked,” he said. “The administration leaked to the media, without any details, the idea that it was willing to go along with trillions in spending cuts.”

But the cuts are largely illusory, McConnell indicated. Obama hoped “the budget gimmicks and deferred decision-making they actually supported would have the appearance of serious belt-tightening.”

In truth, the effect would be “at most about a couple billion dollars in cuts up front with empty promises of more to follow.” 

But the tax hikes Obama demanded were real !

According to Charles Krauthammer, Obama’s statements should be viewed as “situational truth. Obama will say what he needs to say at the time he says it to advance a political agenda.”  The Bush administration was not transparent. Bush made decisions without an open airing of views, pro and con. So Obama said, I’m not Bush, I’m going to be transparent, and won. Never mind about following through – ramming through legislation past midnight that no one could read was OK.

The evidence supports Krauthammer’s view. Some of you may remember Jim Geraghty’s list of Obama statements and their expiration dates. It is a very long list. With that sort of record, I expect a lot more OHO moments in the months to come.

OHO ! (Obama Hypocrisy Observation)

June 24, 2011

Every so often, the worst Administration in history does something to get this lazy blogger to take time out of his day to marvel at the sheer hypocrisy, venality, do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do-ness and overall low-down dirty trickery of this group that is incompetent to administer our government. Here is my first OHO ! or Obama Hypocrisy Observation:

Some of you may have noticed that Obama decided to release 30 million barrels of oil from the SPR (Strategic Petroleum Reserve). Three links let you pick one of my favorite blogs with the story. As an editorial notes:

The spigots have been opened just twice — in 2005 by President Bush, who released 11 million barrels after disruptions from Hurricane Katrina, and in 1992 by President Bush Sr., who tapped 20 million barrels in the wake of the Gulf War. President Obama’s release — which is far bigger than either of those two emergencies — is supposedly in response to disruptions from Libya, which isn’t even a U.S. supplier. It isn’t our crisis.

This had an immediate effect on the oil markets, dropping the price of oil over 5%. In all likelihood, that will lead to lower gas prices at the pump. Political, ya think ?

But that isn’t what got me worked up. I expect every decision from the Obama administration to be made for political gain. What got me was learning that in addition, he waived the Jones Act to allow foreign ships to transport the SPR oil*. The Jones Act requires that cargo shipped from one US port to another be carried by US vessels that are US owned with US crews, a protectionist measure we can debate, later. “Waivers have been granted in cases of national emergencies or in cases of strategic interest.”

Transporting SPR oil is NOT a national emergency that requires waiving the Jones Act. So why did Obama do it? After all, this is the same guy who has restricted oil drilling from day one and is doing his best to move us away from a carbon-based economy to a green economy, whatever that is, the merits of which we can debate, later.

The hypocrisy is that oil from evil corporations is bad, but oil sold by the government to reduce energy costs is so good that getting SPR oil to market is a national (reelection) emergency!

*You may recall that a Belgian firm DEME gave the Jones Act as the reason their offer to help clean up the Gulf of Mexicooil spill was declined. It is unclear if that was true.

Democrat policy on gas prices sows fear and ignores basic economics [UPDATED]

April 27, 2011

According to Greg Sargent, Democratic strategists have some talking points they want to push to ‘protect Americans at the gas station’ in response to rising gas prices. Here is the key policy:

* Although there is no single, easy answer for addressing increased gas prices in the short term, there are things we can do to guarantee that Americans aren’t victims of escalating gas prices in the long term.

* One thing we can do is eliminate unnecessary tax breaks for the oil and gas industry and instead invest that money into clean energy, so that we can cut our dependence on foreign oil.

Given the government’s track record in alternative energy (remember Synfuels ?), there is no guarantee government  ‘investments’ in clean energy will lead to lower energy prices. So what will be the effect of eliminating tax breaks for oil and gas companies ?

Eliminating tax breaks means raising taxes. If companies’ taxes go up, they will try to pass the cost on to their customers to keep their profits constant (that’s what I would do).

How will this brilliant Democratic strategy keep gas prices from rising ? The answer is it won’t. These talking points are pure demagoguery that seek to gain support from folks upset with rising prices by demonizing business.

I am not the only one to notice this. And I am hardly a fan of tax breaks for oil and gas companies – or tax credits or subsidies for ‘green’ cars, alternative energy sources, or ethanol, for that matter. These should all go away along with a host of other targeted government tax breaks and subsidies. Their primary effect is to buy votes. But eliminating tax breaks for oil and gas companies and throwing the money at clean energy is ignorant of basic economics. It guarantees that prices will go up in the short term. There is no guarantee the imagined benefits will ever come to pass.

UPDATE: Larry Kudlow weighs in on the $4B in tax breaks Dems want to eliminate. Hint – the piece is titled ‘The Left Hates Oil Companies.’

If you read one opinion piece this week…

November 19, 2010

Make it Conrad Black’s The Path to Economic Disaster. One of my new favorite columnists, he does not disappoint. The column is on Bernanke’s flawed approach to restimulate the economy by having the Fed buy $600 billion in Treasury bonds. Black eviscerates it:

what is in contemplation is an immediate 30 percent increase in the money supply (as more conventionally defined), thrust in cash into the hands of largely foreign bondholders, designed to incite spending by those whose bonds are redeemed and to reduce the value of the U.S. dollar (despite official disclaimers), facilitating U.S. exports and discouraging imports. No international reserve currency has survived such a harum-scarum move intact.

In two paragraphs, he summarizes the policy reaction to the Great Depression more clearly than any book on the subject, including this snippet:

Roosevelt got most of the equation right, as he guaranteed bank deposits and reorganized the banking system, which quickly reopened; put many millions of people to work in workfare infrastructure and conservation programs; brought in Social Security and unemployment insurance; partly abandoned the gold standard; devalued the dollar; refinanced home mortgages; and had farmers vote by category to limit production, raising prices.

On to our fearless leader:

President Obama had a good trip to India and Indonesia, and is moving steadily to strengthen relations with those powers and Russia and Japan, which will be the real bulwark against the increasingly irritating shenanigans of the Chinese and their naughty North Korean puppet. If he could steel himself to take out the incubating Iranian nuclear military capacity, and not waste more time on sanctions, he might still rank as a force for stability in the world, and not just as he has been, an agent for disintegration of the Western Alliance, and the facilitator of an immense rush for deterrent nuclear weapons, while he mouths delusional exhortations to disarmament, as if in a Monty Python farce.

Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing.

Ray of hope

November 4, 2010

I have previously pointed out the ongoing trend of the Democratic Party – its politicians and supporters – becoming more anti-Israel while the GOP remains strongly pro-Israel. It has been a great source of frustration that many of my pro-Israel Democratic friends have seemed blind to this.

But I just saw some news that offers a ray of hope. According to a poll done by J Street, Jews backed Democrats over Republicans by a 66-31 margin in yesterday’s election.

66% of Jews voting for Democrats is a decrease from the typical 76% Jewish support in a mid-term election! It is still much more than the 43% overall support Democrats enjoyed, yesterday, and the decrease may reflect the overall Republican wave.

I prefer to look on the bright side and hope this marks a trend of pro-Israel Jewish voters moving away from the Democratic party.

Two candidates for Congress I like

October 20, 2010

I was tickled to learn that my former across-the-street neighbor, Rick Woldenberg, is chairman of Joel Pollak’s campaign finance committee. Rick runs a toy company that is suffering because of the draconian toy safety legislation implemented by the Democratic Congress in response to the Chinese toy lead paint issue. Getting the cold shoulder from his legislators in his quest to amend this well-intentioned but overbearing regulation, he changed from being a lifelong Democratic supporter to Republican fundraiser.

I first heard of Joel Pollak when he asked Barney Frank if he bore any responsibility for the housing crash as a supporter of Fannie and Freddie’s mortgages-for-all-regardless-of-creditworthiness policy. Joel became a Youtube sensation with his reasonableness contrasting with Barney’s arrogance.

Joel is running against Jan Schakowsky, a big J Street supporter, major water-carrier for Obama, and career politician. Schakowsky famously admitted that Obamacare is designed to lead to a single-payer government-run healthcare system. Schakowsky said Mr. Woldenberg’s success as a fundraiser, is proof that “very cynical … special interests are highly engaged in the campaign.”

Joel Pollak is strong on Israel and is endorsed by To Protect Our Heritage PAC. He is right on the economic issues confronting us and I am supporting him. Please consider doing the same:

http://www.pollakforcongress.com/

Oh, and if you want to help me retire another career politician, Barney Frank, please check this out:

http://www.retirebarney.com

I am supporting his opponent, Sean Bielat, an ex-Marine and iRobot executive who is also right on the economic issues and a strong supporter of Israel.

Obama’s campaign funding hypocrisy

October 10, 2010

President Obama, well on his way to a Carteresque small stature presidency, has been trumpeting a blog post that attacks groups supporting Republican candidates this fall – the US Chamber of Commerce and Crossroads GPS, founded by Karl Rove. The groups are criticized because they do not disclose their donors and may have illegal foreign money behind them.

This is not Obama’s first attack on campaign funding. Remember that he did his best to diminish the Supreme Court in the State of the Union address by criticizing the Citizens United decision allowing corporations to fund campaign speech directly (though not candidates, directly) as enabling ‘special interests’ and foreign influences.

But not even Obama’s usual defenders believe there is a smoking gun. The New York Times pooh-poohed his recent remarks as off-base:

[T]here is little evidence that what the chamber does in collecting overseas dues is improper or even unusual, according to both liberal and conservative election-law lawyers and campaign finance documents.

[M]any groups are not required to disclose their donors.

I have long maintained that curbs on campaign financing are futile. Money influences politics as surely as water flows downhill, and it will work its way around whatever barriers are put in its way. Laws like McCain-Feingold are well-intentioned but will never work as intended. Still, they must be obeyed.

Obama has hardly set a good example of obeying the letter or spirit of campaign finance laws. I am reminded of his brazen flip-flop where he refused public financing in 2008, the first candidate to do so. It is well documented that his 2008 campaign lacked minimal controls such as asking for credit card addresses to prevent illegal foreign contributions.

It is clear that the Democrats are terrified by the magnitude of the defeat they are facing. Karl Rove has it just about right:

Rove said Sunday that the DNC ad effectively accused them all of a criminal violation of U.S. law — only without proof.  “They have not one shred of evidence to back up that baseless lie. This is a desperate and I think disturbing trend by the president of the United States to tar his political adversaries with some kind of, you know, enemies list unrestrained by any facts or evidence whatsoever.”

Here’s the anomaly. The blog post that started the furor is from John Podesta’s Center for American Progress. According to Politico, that group does not disclose its donors. Perfectly legal and incredibly hypocritical.